This week: House poised to send same-sex marriage bill to Biden’s desk

U.S. Capitol
Peter Afriyie
The U.S. Capitol, around sunset on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.

The House is poised to send legislation protecting same-sex marriage to President Biden’s desk this week, capping off months of bipartisan negotiations spurred this summer by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas calling for the reversal of the ruling safeguarding LGBTQ rights.

The Senate passed the bill last week, sending it back to the House after the upper chamber added an amendment that was crucial to securing Republican support. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week said the bill will come up in the House on Tuesday.

The annual defense authorization bill will also be a focus in the Capitol this week, as lawmakers race to get the must-pass legislation done by the end of the month. A top member of the House Armed Services Committee told The Hill last week the bill should be brought to the floor by Tuesday.

Members of both chambers will also continue negotiations on government funding this week, as the Dec. 16 deadline inches closer.

On Tuesday, congressional leaders are scheduled to participate in a Gold Medal Ceremony for law enforcement personnel who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

That is also the day that voters in Georgia will head to the polls for the Peach State’s Senate runoff race — which will determine if the upper chamber is one again split 50-50, or if Democrats have a slim 51-49 majority come January.

House to send marriage equality bill to Biden’s desk

The House is set to pass a bill this week that would protect same-sex marriage on the federal level, giving the legislation a final stamp of congressional approval before it heads to Biden’s desk for his signature.

The Senate cleared the measure, titled the Respect for Marriage Act, in a bipartisan 61-36 vote last week. Twelve Republicans joined all Democrats present in support.

House lawmakers passed the bill in a 267-157 vote in July, but the chamber has to take up the bill again this week after senators added an amendment outlining protections for religious liberties.

The addition was central in attracting enough GOP support to push the measure over the finish line. It shields religious organizations from having to provide services supporting same-sex marriage, along with other provisions.

The Rules Committee is scheduled to meet on the bill Monday, and Pelosi told reporters last week that the House will take up the measure on Tuesday. It will likely pass in a bipartisan fashion after 47 House Republicans joined Democrats in support over the summer.

“And we will send it swiftly to the president’s desk for signature,” the Speaker said at her weekly press conference.

Biden, for his part, is ready to enact the measure. In a statement following Senate passage, he said he will “promptly and proudly sign it into law” after it receives approval in the House.

Negotiations for the measure were set off this summer after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. In his concurring opinion for that ruling, Thomas called on the court to reconsider the precedent set in Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that made same-sex marriage a constitutional right.

Lawmakers look to move on annual defense funding

Lawmakers are looking to move on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week to lay out the Pentagon’s spending priorities and policy before the year comes to a close.

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet on the bill Monday, and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, told The Hill last week that a negotiated version of the legislation should be brought to the floor by Tuesday.

The House and Senate passed their own versions of the annual defense bill earlier this year, and lawmakers across the Capitol have since been reconciling the two measures. Politico reported last week that the two chambers have agreed to $847 billion for national defense. That number, however, increases to $858 billion when factoring in programs not under the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee.

The figure is the same as the one approved by the Senate Armed Services earlier this year. It is $45 billion more than the $802 billion the White House requested for fiscal 2023.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters last week that he was “optimistic” the defense bill would pass before Christmas.

“The reason I’m optimistic is because the NDAA is a very, very important bill,” he said.

On Friday, however, the Maryland Democrat said the measure was “not ready for filing” that day because of “some outstanding issues.”

“I’ve talked to Mr. Smith, the chairman of the committee, who indicates they are making progress and they are hopeful they can get this done,” he added in remarks on the House floor, referring to Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) of the House Armed Services Committee.

Congress has approved an annual defense authorization bill every year for the past six decades. This time around, however, some Republicans are threatening to vote against advancing the must-pass measure unless a vote is held on ending the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for military personnel.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who led the letter with Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), said 20 Republican senators are in on the effort.

Government funding negotiations continue

Lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol will continue working through government funding negotiations this week as the Dec. 16 deadline — and the threat of a shutdown — looms.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told The Hill last week that top lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Committee had started trading top-line numbers for an omnibus measure, but he noted that “it’s still an open question” of whether or not Congress will come to a consensus and pass such legislation.

Negotiations for government funding took a backseat as lawmakers focused on the November midterm elections and Senate passage of the marriage equality bill. But with the Dec. 16 deadline creeping up, lawmakers will have to kick negotiations into high gear to avoid a shutdown.

Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said spending talks will likely make more progress after this week’s Senate runoff race in Georgia.

Congressional leaders are pushing for both chambers to pass an omnibus package before the deadline. After a meeting at the White House with President Biden and the top four congressional leaders last week, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the group “all said we would try to work towards getting an omnibus as opposed to a CR.”

But if lawmakers are unable to strike a deal before Dec. 16, when funding is set to run out, they will likely pass a short-term funding measure to provide additional time for negotiating.

Some Republicans are pushing for a short-term bill that would keep the government funded at current fiscal levels until sometime next year, when Republicans will control the House and have more influence in setting funding levels.

Pelosi last week recognized the prospect of passing a year-long continuing resolution, calling it “a last resort.”

Lawmakers award Congressional Gold Medal to law enforcement personnel

Top lawmakers from both parties and both chambers will gather on Tuesday to present the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the law enforcement community who protected the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 attack.

Pelosi, Schumer, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are all slated to attend, in addition to the chiefs of the U.S. Capitol Police and Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department.

In a statement announcing the ceremony, Pelosi’s office said Congress “owes its deepest appreciation” to members of the U.S. Capitol Police and Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“On January 6th, 2021, a violent mob attacked the Capitol, the Congress and the Constitution. The United States Congress owes its deepest appreciation to the extraordinary valor of the United States Capitol Police and the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, who risked and gave their lives to save our Capitol,” the statement reads.

The ceremony is slated to take place in the Capitol Rotunda at 11 a.m. EST.

Tags Biden Clarence Thomas Congress Defense funding government funding Nancy Pelosi Same-sex marriage Steny Hoyer This Week
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